U.S. Senators to Obama: Scale back nuclear-use policies

PNND Co-President Senator Markey and nine other senators commend President Obama for visiting Hiroshima. They call on him to use this experience to cancel 'launch-on-warning', adopt a 'no-first-use' policy, and scale back the excessive nuclear weapons modernisation program.

In a letter to President Barack Obama released on 20 July 2016, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and eight senate colleagues called on the president to take bold action on U.S. nuclear weapons policy in the final months of his administration.

PNND Co-President Senator Ed Markey

The senators note that during President Obama’s recent visit to Hiroshima, he called on nations that possess nuclear weapons to “have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”

“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to American national security,” write the Senators in the letter to President Obama. “The lesson of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is clear: nuclear weapons must never be used again. We must do everything we can to reduce the risk of nuclear war and preserve America’s security interests.”

Specifically, the senators urge the president to restrain U.S. nuclear weapons spending and reduce the risk of nuclear war, including by scaling back excessive nuclear modernization plans, adopting a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, and canceling launch-on-warning plans.

The letter was released just two weeks after the Parliamentary Assembly for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) adopted the Tbilisi Declaration which includes a call for no-first-use and de-alerting of nuclear weapons. The OSCE PA committee which discussed and adopted the call was chaired by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (Republican, Mississippi). See OSCE Parliamentary Assembly calls for nuclear weapons stand-down!

Senator Feinstein arguing in the Appropriations Committee for cuts to nuclear weapons spending.

'More than a quarter-century after the end of the Cold War, the United States still maintains the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict,' say the Senators in the letter. 'Retaining this option exacerbates mutual fears of surprise attack, putting pressure on other nuclear-armed states to keep their arsenals on high-alert and increasing the risk of unintended war.'

The senators note that, in addition, 'the United States maintains plans to launch nuclear weapons in response to the mere warning of a nuclear attack. This policy undermines the president's ability to carefully deliberate in a crisis and raises the prospect of devastating mistakes in the event of false alarms.'

Regarding nuclear modernisation, the Senators specifically call on President Obama to take steps to cancel plans to spend at least $20 billion on a new nuclear air-launched cruise missile, the Long Range Standoff weapon.

A number of the senators also endorse Senator Markey's SANE Act, a bolder plan for slashing nuclear weapons spending by over US$100 billion over the next decade.

Other senators signing the letter include Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).